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Philadelphia Holiday Hearing Events

Thanksgiving through New Year’s is full of seasonal parties, get-togethers, dinners, and festive events. Don’t let your hearing loss stop you from enjoying the sounds of the holiday season.

What is there to do?

If you’re looking for something specific to do, Philadelphia has a lot of options.

1. If you want to take in a show, nothing beats the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music, both of which have American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation (at select performances) in addition to audio description, assistive listening, and open/closed captions. Check their website for shows and times, and be sure to always call before you reserve a seat. Not every performance might have what you need.

2. Though it’s only one day, the Franklin Institute’s Polar Express event could be fun for you and your kids. “Relive the magic and wonder of the timeless classic holiday tale The Polar Express on Saturday, December 14 with activities inspired by the award-winning book and beloved film. Let your imagination soar as you climb aboard the authentic Baldwin 60,000 locomotive for a guided storytelling experience.” The Institute’s accessibility options include portable assistive listening devices and closed captions for use in the Franklin Theater, where screenings of The Polar Express will be held.

3. If you’re concerned about straining to hear or make out speech and sound (or maybe you just want a break!), a trip out to Longwood Gardens to see the holiday lights (a predominately visual experience) might be just what you need. Or consider a nice walk in one of Philly’s parks. Rittenhouse Square or Franklin Square’s Holiday Festival are beautiful and festive this time of year, and might be the perfect place to not only see the sights, but practice listening to speech and sound in different environments.

4. Explore! Philadelphia is a vibrant city, with lots to do. The Visit Philly website lays out 40 popular events and attractions — everything from holiday shopping and dance performances, to a menorah lighting at the Betsy Ross House. Accessibility may vary between each, but sometimes it can be worthwhile to just show up and try out your hearing devices in varying acoustic landscapes.

If you have any suggestions about what do in Philadelphia, let us know! We’ll publish them here in this blog with your permission and attribution.

Resources

Visit Philly’s website has a great accessibility guide, focusing not only on sights and attractions, but helpful resources on how to get around.

Also, be sure to check out our sister blog: South Jersey Holiday Hearing Events.

Autumn Hearing, Indoors vs Out

What’s the best thing about autumn? Pumpkin pie? Cooler weather? Maybe Halloween? There is a lot going on between October and December. If you have hearing loss, how can you best navigate the joys of the season? How can you best look after your hearing, indoors vs out?

Outside

Despite the chilly weather, chances are you’ll still be spending a fair amount of time outside. You might be going on long walks, looking at the leaves change, or you might want to take advantage of one of the most popular harvest months and plan some pumpkin or apple picking weekends. There are hayrides, corn mazes, and haunted houses, too.

  • The main thing you want to watch out for is moisture. Chill in the air might turn to water on your aid. Be sure to dry off your device each night, and use a dehumidifier if you have one.
  • The nice thing about cooler temperatures is more pockets, more places to store accessories. So, if you’re out at your local fall fair, be sure to stick some extra batteries or cleaning cloths somewhere handy.
  • Since you survived the summer, by now you should be an expert at navigating sound environments in outdoor elements. But even so, fall means more wind and rustling leaves. There might be a slight period of readjustment needed.

Inside

Fall has a lot going for it, but it also marks the time of year when people start spending longer periods of time indoors. This change — no matter how familiar — can always feel like a bit of a shock.

  • Keep on talking and seeing people. Go to parties and get-togethers. The more you do this, the more you “practice” hearing. Remember the REM mantra: socializing = brain training.
  • If your hearing aid has settings or profiles, they might need readjustment. This time of year — right before winter — is the perfect time to be sure your device is functioning at peak performance. A visit to the audiologist might even be in order.
  • You might be tempted to take your aids out more than usual when you’re home alone, inside and cozy. Don’t! Wearing your aids as much as possible helps both you and your brain.

Halloween

According to some, maybe the best holiday. And who can blame them? Dressing up, going to spooky parties, and canvassing the neighborhood for candy — when else can you do that?

  • If you’re trick or treating, always be sure you or your children are aware of your surroundings. When it gets dark, visibility might be low, and with all the kids on the street, it might be harder than normal to hear the world around you.
  • Decorate your aids! Have fun with your costume and don’t hide your devices. Be careful of bulky masks or ear coverings.
  • “Wear a glow-in-the-dark badge to say you’re deaf/head of hearing.”

Holiday Season

After Halloween, it’s only a few short weeks until Thanksgiving, and then a few more until the December holidays. The weather will be getting colder, and soon you’ll be spending most of your time indoors, away from the chill. But that’s for another blog!

Pediatric Hearing Aids

The Oticon Opn™ Play hearing device is a pediatric hearing aid specifically designed to help your child optimize incidental learning and truly process sound in a 360-degree environment.

Benefits

Incidental learning is the big perk. Acoustics being what they are, valuable sound and information is not often directed to the listener, which can make it difficult for hard-of-hearing children to pick up on certain things. Sound environments help us grow, and a child’s spatial/hearing awareness is a crucial part of their developmental process.

From the Oticon website: “With Opn Play, there’s finally a cutting-edge hearing aid that allows your child to learn, grow, play and thrive. Open up their world, let them play, laugh along with friends, let them dream about the future. Just like any other child.”

Technology

With its Velox™ chip, the Opn Play boasts superior signal-to-noise processing, helping speech comprehension in noisy areas such as schoolyards or classrooms. As said above, being able to separate what you want to hear from its surrounding background is a beneficial skill for children to have.

The aids are also sturdy, “designed to stand up to the test of childhood.” The battery doors are childproof, the aids allergen-free, and each device has an LED light to “give caregivers and teachers visual confirmation that the battery is functioning properly.”

Extras

Each Oticon Opn play comes in a fun variety of kid-friendly styles and colors. Depending on how your children want to express themselves, these aids can be subtle and unobtrusive or colorful and stylish.

For additional schoolroom help, the pediatric Opn aids can be paired with ConnectClip, Amigo FM, and Oticon ON app systems.

For more information on pediatric hearing aids, visit this month’s technology spotlight over on the REM website.

Autumn Hearing

Summer is winding down, and with the hotter weather soon behind us, it’s time to start preparing for fall. A change of season means a change in hearing healthcare.

Hearing Goals

Autumn brings cooler weather, a host of holidays, and new activities. You might swap out the beach for scenic car trips; outdoors might slowly be replaced by gatherings inside.

The change in your surrounding environment might take some getting used to, especially if you have new hearing aids. Indoor acoustics (windows closed, people crowded inside) for longer periods of time can prove challenging. But if there’s a readjustment period, don’t worry — simply be patient and voice your concerns.

Our past blogs about dining out or talking around the dinner table have some applicable tips for carrying on conversation inside. Remember, learning to listen in different types of locations can strengthen the way you hear, how your brain perceives sound, and how you can comprehend speech amid noise.

Weather

The weather outside will most likely be moderate, so your hearing aids will probably be OK. Temperature extremes (the hot in the summer, the cold in the winter) are more likely to affect your device than any temperature in the fall.

One thing you’ll want to watch out for, however, is any dampness or moisture caused by chill. If you have a dehumidifier, continue drying out your aids a couple times a week. Don’t stop just because summer is over.

Holidays

Summer into fall brings with it back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays. This means parties, people, and lots of conversation. Use this time to brain train, to practice listening and talking. Strengthen your hearing as best as you can before bunkering down for the winter.

Most importantly, have fun! September through December brings lots of opportunities for you to further your hearing health goals.

Summertime Localization

Since it’s summer, odds are you’ll find yourself outside more than usual, and whether you’re going to street festivals, fairs, amusement or water parks, you’ll want to be aware of your hearing aid’s localization features.

What is localization?

Localization is the ability to determine the direction and placement of sound and noise, and is important for spatial awareness, balance, and location comprehension. Those with hearing loss often have trouble with the localization of sound.

What does this mean for summer activities?

Being able to hear the world around you is an incredibly important part of staying aware and safe, and unlike at home or indoors, the sounds of an outdoor environment can be a bit more unpredictable.

If you find yourself surrounded by a lot of people, you’ll also be surrounded by a lot of sound. To someone with hearing impairment, this could be like hearing a low roar, a flat level of noise coming from no particular direction. This not only limits your interaction with those around you, but can also cause safety issues.

What can you do?

  • Be sure to talk to your audiologist about how your hearing aid processes sound in a 3D environment.
  • Before you buy an aid, research different brands. Oticon Opn™, for instance, has a lot of good localization features, including rapid noise reduction and speech clarity support.
  • If you notice an increased difficulty hearing or comprehending speech or noise in big crowds, don’t ignore it. Maybe you need another hearing assessment, or maybe your aid simply needs an up-to-date adjustment.

Don’t waste your summer worrying about noise outside.

Tinnitus Education

Tinnitus education starts early at REM! For children especially, early management of tinnitus can help prevent future issues, such as hearing loss due to noise exposure.

And while it’s very important to not draw undue attention to tinnitus in a child lest they over-focus on or invent its presence, it is likewise important for parents and physicians to pay attention to any unsolicited complaints of ringing, buzzing, or “foreign” sounds in their ears.

What Do We Propose?

The presence of tinnitus symptoms can be due to noise (maybe they’re listening to loud music through earbuds), certain medications, or even a past head injury. It can be harmless or require immediate attention. There are a lot of variables, and it’s important to figure out what’s what.

REM recommends that all school-aged children receive at least 1 hearing test in their elementary years. That might be the perfect time to not only talk about hearing loss — its risks, what it feels (and sounds) like — but also what to do if they experience any “hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring or ringing” in their ears.

Again, you don’t want to overemphasize tinnitus, as a small amount of ringing in the ears can be both normal and — to the detriment of the child — hyper-focused on. But you may want to ask them to describe — in their own words — what sounds they normally hear. If they detail anything out of the ordinary, it may provide cause to investigate possible signs of tinnitus further and maybe even come up with a treatment or management plan for the future.

How Does Tinnitus Manifest in Children?

As in adults, every case is different. The most common symptoms, according to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) are:

  • “Reports of ringing, buzzing, clicking, whistling, humming, hissing, or roaring sound
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Poor attention and restlessness in a very young child
  • Tantrums, irritability, and your child holding his head or ears
  • Severe fatigue
  • Anxiety or depression”

CHOP also breaks down why tinnitus in children is something that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. It may be temporary (a side effect of exposure to a loud noise), but tinnitus could also signal “damage to the inner ear,” which can cause hearing impairment and affect concentration, learning, and development in the classroom.

It’s Up To Us

“About one-third of children suffer from tinnitus at some point, but the condition often goes unnoticed. In many cases, the child is too young to describe what they’re hearing, has come to think of it as normal, or is not troubled by the experience enough to mention it,” CHOP also writes.

It’s a tricky situation, trying to diagnose something you don’t necessarily want to draw attention to. But since a lot of children don’t notice tinnitus, or can’t articulate its symptoms if they do, it’s up to us to find a way to help.

Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. What can you do to help spread awareness?

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.” Given enough time, it can harm your ability to remember, hold conversation, or carry out simple tasks. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia, and ranks somewhere between third and sixth as the leading cause of death in older Americans.

Your Mind and Your Body

As audiologists, we naturally want to know how Alzheimer’s can influence your hearing health. The brain is your command center, and when it starts to change, so does your body. When a disorder like Alzheimer’s takes hold, your physical sense of self can be just as affected as your mind.

New research suggests a link between dementia, hearing loss, cognitive load, and social isolation, with hearing loss as the catalyst. Though hearing loss does not directly cause Alzheimer’s (or dementia), it can lead to lifestyle and medical changes that can sometimes, in a sense, “open the door.”

This is why getting an annual hearing assessment* — especially if you’re aged 55 or older — is important. If early identification and intervention can even slightly help prevent Alzheimer’s, then a hearing test is something every person needs to regularly receive.

Help Spread the Word

Check out the Alzheimer’s Association to see what you can do to help. Ideas include wearing (and turning your social media profiles) purple, sharing your story, and more.

For more information about the mind and hearing heath, check out past REM blogs on the relationship between hearing loss and dementia and brain aging & memory loss.

*See office for details

Over The Ear (OTE) Ear Plugs

This week we’re continuing our tech spotlight blog series by talking about something a little more niche: over-the-ear (OTE) protection. OTE protection, more commonly known as “ear muffs”, is not something everyone is going to use. They’re big, bulky, and not practical for a lot of daily or social actives. However, for those who work in particularly noisy or messy surroundings, or for those who need a level of professional customization, these are possibly some of the best the tools on the market to help protect your hearing.

OTE Protection

OTE hearing protection can be found online or at your local hardware store. They resemble earphones, and fit completely over your ear. No matter the brand, you can adjust the tightness to your level of comfort.

The rims are cushioned and comfortable, some are sweat resistant, and you can wear them for hours at a time. One popular type is even collapsable for easy storage.

Uses and Advantages

Ear muffs are commonly used by construction workers, hunters, and (with some upgrades) airline pilots. They are portable, require less maintenance than, and have similar NRR ratings to*, reusable in-the-ear plugs.

They are ideal for constant use, and can be easily removed, replaced, and stored. You don’t have to worry about irritation or introducing dirt or debris into your ear canal. Earmuffs are also one size fits all (though some brands offer a range of sizes).

Every now and then, it’s recommended you wipe down the inside with some water (though you won’t need to do this nearly as much as you would with reusable ear protection). Compressed air also helps to clear out any skin flakes that may have gotten trapped inside.

At $10.00 – $20.00 for a standard pair on Amazon, they are relatively inexpensive.

Using with Other Protection

Some people double up and wear ear muffs in addition to disposable or reusable plugs. This can help if you find yourself in an extremely noisy or harsh accoustic environment. Coopersafety.com breaks down how this works in regards to NRR ratings:

“When hearing protectors are worn in combination (i.e. earplugs AND earmuffs), rather than adding the two NRR numbers together, you simply add five more decibels of protection to the device with the higher NRR. For example, using 3M™ E-A-R™ Classic Earplugs (NRR 29) with 3M™ Peltor™ H7 Deluxe Earmuffs (NRR 27) would provide a Noise Reduction Rating of approximately 34 decibels.”

Most people opt for a single set of ear protection, however, whether that’s disposable, reusable, over-the-ear, or custom varieties. Each have their strengths.

Next up: custom ear plugs. (This is where your audiologist comes in to help.)

*Regarding NRR ratings: your base level ear muffs will typically have a lower score than your run of the mill disposable or reusable plug. You can purchase brands, however, with comparable noise valuations.

 

Wine – Chocolate – Hearing Loss

Did you know that (a moderate amount of) wine and chocolate can help your hearing? It sounds far-fetched, but according to some researchers, it’s true. Red wine and dark chocolate may help prevent inflammation that causes — in part — noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

Inflammation damages your sensory perception. If you get sick or have an ear infection, the blood vessels in your ear canal can weaken, and your circulation can slow. Your natural defenses can be compromised, allowing exposure to loud or constant noise to cause more harm.

If wine and chocolate could help prevent this trauma, it would certainly be welcome news. But for all their supposed benefits, keep in mind neither is a miracle food. You shouldn’t trust them to protect you from external noise, and overindulging in either may, in fact, cause active harm. Excessive alcohol, especially, has been shown to hurt both your brain and — as a consequence — your hearing.

REM has written about food’s relationship with hearing before. In that blog, we focused on the correlation between cholesterol and hearing health. We concluded that the healthier the body, the healthier the hearing. The connection between chocolate and wine and protection from NIHL may be a bit more tenuous, but a little bit of either certainly won’t hurt. They might even help.

At the very least, they’ll taste good.

Family Hearing Loss

Living with hearing loss can be a challenge for anyone, but if your household has one or more individuals with hearing difficulty, day-to-day conversation and interaction can sometimes feel insurmountable. So it’s important to know your options.

Hearing aid technology has advanced greatly over the years, and devices are now at the point (depending on the severity of your loss) where speech in noise can be more easily understood, where you don’t have to shout to get the other person’s attention. If you don’t have hearing aids, you might find yourself turning the TV up too loud, getting easily frustrated trying to talk to your family members, or having your family members get frustrated themselves.

Hearing aids are important. They will help. There may still be difficulties, yes, but with the right device, and the right programming, you can find your family’s conversation equilibrium. This is true for homes with single or multiple wearers of hearing aids.

Assistive listening devices — used in conjunction with your aids — can make things even easier. Hypersound, for instance, is an amplification technology that uses directional speakers to focus the sound of your entertainment system. Most aids, such as the Oticon Opn™, also have Bluetooth® technology that allows certain devices to stream directly to your aids. As the technology around us grows, so does our ability to pair them with each another. Hearing aids are no exception.

With conversation and entertainment options covered, what else is there?

There will always be challenges, despite all the solutions available. Be honest and up-front with your loved ones. Let them know what you’re feeling, what you find frustrating, and ask them to tell you the same. If you and others suffer from hearing loss at the same time, not being transparent can compound communication issues. Hearing issues can be hard enough; there’s no need to make them harder.

Be sure to also talk to your audiologist. They may even be able to help counsel you and your family on how to more easily converse and understand one another at home.